Friday, May 30, 2014

From Travel to Personnel

I have finished my Gazetteer for hyperspace travel times, and I think I am happy with it. The time required to cross the entire galaxy (using a class x1 hyperdrive) is 21 hours...which translates into 42 hours for a group in a stock light frieghter (with a x2 drive). The chart also jives with a few key references in Star Wars lore, among them a quote from Vader that says
"This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kenobi, it will soon see the end of the Rebellion."
Vader kills Obi Wan at the wreckage of Alderaan, then the Death Star goes through hyperspace to Yavin. My chart says that trip would about 20 hours with a x4 hyperdrive, so we're just on the edge of calling Vader's quote literally true. This also allows the Rebellion something like 17.5 hours to study the stolen Death Star plans to find the thermal exhaust port weakness.

Another key component is the travel time from Tatooine to Alderaan, which isn't explicitly stated in the movie, but certainly seems like a few hours (not a day or more). The chart says the Falcon could make that trip in about 4 hours.

Finally, the EU chimes in with a couple of references from the Michael Stackpole X-wing books (very appropriate to quote from these here, at this X-wing blog!). While one reference (Yag'Dhul to Thyferra) needs to be completely tossed out the window, two others are right on the money in agreement with other factors (8 hours for X-wing to go from Alderaan to Tatooine and 12 hours for an Interdictor to go from Centares to Alderaan).

Sadly, the chart I have made disagrees completely with at least three bits of Star Wars conventional wisdom: for one thing it is said that it would take weeks to cross the galaxy (re-stated in the Edge of the Empire RPG main rulebook), for another it is said that somehow the density of mass shadows affects travel times (even though in a standard spiral galaxy the numeric density of stars near the core would be literally hundreds of times higher than out on the rim...but nobody suggests travel times in the core should take hundreds of times longer!), and finally they seem to suggest that the known hyperspace trade routes are somehow safer, preferred, and possibly required travel paths. I can get behind the notion that BoSS collects (anonymous?) route data for all ships landing at heavily populated worlds, then uses these calculations to produce up to date "fresh" maps for people. But I don't think the trade corridors are anything more special than just that: heavily traveled trade routes connecting a ton of planets that like to trade with one another.

As for any calculations related to subspace speeds and whatnot, I cannot muster up enough energy to wish to work on that. I think using the shorthand method of "minutes required to reach a hyperspace jump point", etc, is good enough.

Next up is to begin the process for naming all the NPCs involved thus far, both Tierfon personnel and the Sumitra Sector Imperials who most directly oppose them. After that, the goal will be to write the first X-wing Miniatures Game mission, the first Age of Rebellion adventure, and the first Tierfon Tales short story. Sounds fun!

Monday, May 19, 2014

More Travel

I have been on a quest to finish my galactic gazetteer, quantifying hyperspace travel times between 48 different interesting locations in the Star Wars universe. This equates to 1128 separate measurements on the map! You can see my progress by clicking on the "Gazetteer" link along the top of the blog (only 325 measurements left-ugh).

I have been having a one-sided conversation with myself (Join in! See comments section of this post) regarding how long, exactly, hyperspace travel should take. As mentioned, my first cut at this is to simply have a set travel time per inch of map traveled. I am using a hand-waving argument to dismiss the Star Wars hand-waving argument that travel times vary greatly based on numeric density of stars.

My thought process goes like this: of course there are issues with travel times and distances and whatnot quoted in the myriad sources that make up the old levels of Star Wars canon (now called Legends). However, we do not need to further complicate the issue of a lack of carefully controlled coordination across disparate sources by adding in some hokey arguments and smokescreens. In my opinion, a gazetteer should be possible. And it shouldn't have much to do with how closely packed the stars are, otherwise travel times near the galactic core would be hundreds of times longer than in the Outer Rim. I will admit that there is something about making a gazetteer of cold, hard facts that eats away at some of the mystery and excitement of the unknown so important to Star Wars. Loosey-goosey traveling "at the speed of plot" seems more like space opera, of course, but a bit less like Science Fiction. I hope to bring a bit more balance to that scale.

As long as I am thinking about traveling from Tierfon to somewhere else, I thought I would share these ideas, too.

*On an earth-sized planet (~100 km thick atmosphere), an X-wing launching from the ground takes about 6 minutes to get to space (full throttle, straight up). This is using the conventionally quoted 1050 kph atmospheric speed for the X-wing. One strange thing is that an X-wing is much slower than an SR-71 Blackbird (at least 3540 kph).

*With an earth-sized planet (7918 km diameter), an X-wing takes about 14 minutes to get to the hyperspace jump point (6 planetary diameters away). This is a bit more interesting. It uses a WEG factoid (6 diameters), some calculated numbers for acceleration (based on some very careful film study of the Millenium Falcon in action), the published MGLT numbers for various craft (interpreted as acceleration values), and some kinematic equations.

*With an Jupiter-sized gas giant (521,286 km diameter), an X-wing takes about 47 minutes to get to the hyperspace jump point (6 planetary diameters away).

I am curious as to what people think of this. Too much information? Kills the free-spirited Star Wars vibe?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Report on the Age of Rebellion Beginner Game

A couple of weeks ago I picked up the Age of Rebellion Beginner Game from Fantasy Flight Games. On May the 4th I ran it for some people over at the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center, seeing as it was International Star Wars Day and all. Here are a few reactions.

1. It felt good to run a scenario for Rebel agents. Back in the day I ran a good deal of the West End Games d6 RPG, pretty much one campaign a year in college, and I played in a lot of adventures run by my buddy Shawn in junior high and high school. After 1999, though, we shifted to prequel-era d20 games, with the Living Force campaign, some home games, and then the Dawn of Defiance campaign. I can confidently say that Rebellion-era games are the most fun. It's nice to fight against the Evil Galactic Empire, at least for me as the GM.

2. The adventure provided, "Takeover at Whisper Base," provides a good introduction to the game, but there's much more potential for going "off the rails" than was the case with the Edge of the Empire Beginner Game. Since the scenario involves storming a secret Imperial compound on Onderon, rather than fleeing a Hutt crime boss's enforcers, I think the players are likely to be more methodical and thus more creative in their tactics. Also, there are lots of opportunities to use explosives.

3. On a tangent, it was nice to see Onderon used as the setting for the adventure. I was intrigued by it as the setting for some of the Tales of the Jedi comics back in the mid-nineties, and again with one of the story arcs in the last (full) season of The Clone Wars.

4. All in all, I liked the scenario. It seems a little bit too convenient when run for experienced players, but the GM could always modify it accordingly. Since the downloadable adventure Operation Shadowpoint builds upon "Takeover at Whisper Base," it can make a launching point for many sessions of play. What is more, word on the (virtual) street is that the Age of Rebellion GM Screen will have suggestions for combining its adventure with that from the core rulebook and the aforementioned. I, for one, cannot wait.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Galactic Travel

I have been working on a gazetteer lately, trying to quantify the hyperspace travel times between a large group of planets all across the Star Wars galaxy. It has been an interesting journey, with the Essential Atlas at my side, digging into facts about the structure of real galaxies in an attempt to solve the problem.

Many Star Wars sources deliberately leave out details on the thorny issue of hyperspace travel, likely because of the vast number of contradictory tidbits of information out there. One of the common quotes in this arena is "Ships travel at the speed of plot."

As in, "Forget about it."

While this free and easy notion might work well for a movie, it grates on my nerves when thinking about an otherwise quasi-realistic Sci-Fi universe. We need to know how long it takes to get from point A to point B, and it should be consistent and understandable. There is a lot of hand-waving in the Star Wars canon about how local space effects can make travel times much different than one would guess, based simply on the straight line distance between trip endpoints.

As a first order approximation, I am measuring the distance between each planet pair on my list (see below) on the master galaxy map found in the Essential Atlas. I have a couple of reference distances to compare against in order to convert my distance measurements (in inches) into light years (namely, the distances from Coruscant, Tatooine, Naboo, Hoth, and Yavin to the Galactic Core). At this point, I will have to figure out a hyperspace travel speed in terms of light years per hour (for the x1 drive multiplier). Then things get does one incorporate things like the variable density of stars throughout the galaxy? For my first order approximation, I won't bother with this. I tend to think these sorts of arguments are more "retcon" type ideas, generated after-the-fact, made to gloss over the widely varying apparent travel times from different quoted sources. Stay tuned for more updates as my work continues...

For the sake of argument, here is the list of planets in my gazetteer thus far: Abregado-rae, Alderaan, Ansion, Arda, Bespin, Bogden, Bonadan, Bothawui, Brentaal, Cato Neimoidia, Corellia, Coruscant, Dagobah, Dantooine, Dorvalla, Endor, Eriadu, Felucia, Fondor, Gamorr, Geonosis, Hoth, Kamino, Kashyyyk, Kuat, Lianna, Malastare, Mandalore, Mon Calamari, Mustafar, Muunilist, Mygeeto, Naboo, Nal Hutta, Onderon, Ord Mantell, Polis Massa, Rodia, Ryloth, Saleucami, Subterrel, Sullust, Taanab, Tatooine, Thyferra, Tierfon, Utapau, Yavin.

Did I miss any you would include? Tell me in the comments section.

Another question for you: how long should it take for a smuggler in a light freighter to cross the entire galaxy? A day or two? A week?

As an arbitrary point or reference, a group of people in a motor home could go from New York City to Los Angeles in something like 45 hours or so (that's a bit like a light freighter crew crossing the galaxy, isn't it?)